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The Graveyard Book    by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean order for
Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Alex Telander

It seems inevitable that Neil Gaiman would one day write a book about a graveyard; and furthermore write a wonderful tale about growing up, learning from mistakes, and appreciating life to its fullest. Welcome to The Graveyard Book.

Nobody Owens is doomed to begin with. After his family is tragically killed by a determined and terrifying murderer (who is now after Bod to finish the job), he finds himself in a graveyard. He is adopted by some very strange ghosts and a father figure, Silas, who is neither dead nor alive, but somewhere in between. Bod's upbringing is not one filled with arithmetic and grammar, but rather with abilities of the dead, like Fading and Dreamwalking.

It is no surprise that the book Gaiman was destined to write and has spent many years working on features some of the strongest characters he has ever created. First there is Bod Owens, a wonderful young man. You can't help falling in love as you grow up with him and experience his many adventures. Silas, the strong, paternal caretaker, is shrouded in mystery as to his origins and what it means to be one of the Honor Guard. Miss Lupescu, an Eastern European lady, looks after Bod for a summer, teaching him and forcing him to eat her unusual foods - this relationship begins with hate, but ends in love and respect. Liza Hempstock, a witch buried in potter's field, is shunned by most in the graveyard but becomes an unusual acquaintance for Bod. Scarlett, a living girl, considers Bod an imaginary friend at first and then something more later. There is even an appearance from the Lady on the Grey for the Danse Macabre.

At the end of The Graveyard Book, the reader is moved to sadness, as all things must come to an end. Gaiman has said that many readers told him they cried, which is no surprise when we feel a little part of Bod in all of us. It is the innocent, adventurous spirit within that harkens back to stories like Peter Pan and The Jungle Book (which Gaiman mentions in his acknowledgements). The Graveyard Book doesn't end with a bang or a whimper, but with a moving expression of hope: 'But between now and then, there was Life; and Bod walked into it with his heart and his eyes wide open.'

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